Tag Archives: Heart Attacks

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 10th October 2016

Welfare and pension increases to be announced in 2017 Irish budget

Carer’s allowance and disability payments to increase and the price of tobacco is likely to rise by 30%

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Minister for Housing Simon Coveney will detail a 64% increase in the budget for Traveller-specific accommodation, to €9m.

An increase in a number of pension and welfare payments will be announced in Tuesday’s budget. Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar will later give details of the package, including an additional €5 in the pension.

It is understood agreement has been reached between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to introduce the pension increases from March.

Discussions were under way last night about the size and timing of increases to the carer’s allowance, disability payments and pensions for blind people and widows under the age of 66.

It has also been confirmed that the price of tobacco will increase in the budget, with a packet of 20 cigarettes going up by 50 cent. The Independent Alliance secured a reduction in prescription charges for the over-70s after a last-minute request ahead of the budget.

The alliance, which has five TDs, made a final plea for the measure during talks with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mental health?

The group had requested a reduction in the charges from €2.50 to €2 for people over 70. Mr Donohoe agreed to cap the monthly cost for the over-70s at €20, a reduction of €5.

The move had been resisted by Fine Gael who insisted money for the health budget had already been allocated to a series of measures, including €35 million for mental health and €50 million for the disability budget.

But Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the alliance found the prescription charge “very difficult to accept in its current form”. He said he and his colleagues would be seeking a “substantial reduction” in the charges.

The Independent Alliance TDs also sought a 10 per cent increase in the Christmas bonus paid to welfare recipients and pensioners.

Mr Varadkar has agreed to an 85 per cent restoration of the payment, which equates to €159.80 for people on welfare and €196 for pensioners.


He will increase the one-parent family payment and the back-to-education allowance by €5 per week. The Minister will also outline a new “cost of education” allowance which will be made available to claimants of the back-to-education allowance with children. It will be €500 a year. The income disregards for the one-parent family payment and jobseeker’s transition payment will rise by €20, from €90 to €110 per week, reversing previous reductions.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has been allocated a budget of more than €14 billion, while Minister of State Helen McEntee will be allocated €35 million for mental health services. This will include one major capital project, which is understood to be the reconstruction of an old hospital.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund will also receive an additional €20 million.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney will detail a 64 per cent increase in the budget for Traveller-specific accommodation – to €9 million in 2017. This is separate from the general social housing budget.

The threshold for rent-a-room tax relief is expected to increase by €2,000. It is also understand that Dirt will be cut by 2 per cent.

An alternative budget as AAA & PBP go after big business.

 Image result for An alternative budget as AAA & PBP go after big business  Image result for Water charges, the local property tax and the Universal Social Charge would all be abolished and replaced with a landlord's tax  Image result for Water charges, the local property tax and the Universal Social Charge would all be abolished and replaced with a landlord's tax

The Anti Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit have published what they say is a radical alternative budget.

Water charges, the local property tax and the Universal Social Charge would all be abolished and replaced with a landlord’s tax, a new high earner’s tax and increasing income tax rates for those earning more than €90,000.

They say 50,000 social housing units could be acquired next year and they want to reverse all welfare cuts, add 1,000 hospital beds and increase nursing numbers by 4,000.

AAA TD Paul Murphy says they want to raise at least a further €4bn from Corporation Tax.

He said: “We think that there should be the introduction of a new rate of tax for big business profits, for profits that come in over €800,000.

“That should be a doubling of the existing rate, so 25%.

“That wouldn’t affect small businesses, but only affect big businesses.”

Donald Trump’s comments on women are ‘horrific’, says Tánaiste Fitzgerald

Frances Fitzgerald says ‘locker room banter’ should not become an excuse for sexual assault

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The Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said that the comments made by Donald Trump about grabbing women in a 2005 video raise questions about his fitness to be president of the United States.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said comments made by Donald Trump in a 2005 video about grabbing women raise questions about his fitness to be president of the United States.

Commenting on the recorded conversation in which Republican candidate Mr Trump boasted about using his celebrity status to make sexual advances on women, Ms Fitzgerald said: “I think it’s horrific in relation to women and celebrity being some sort of an excuse for sexual assault.

“I think they are horrendous comments and I think it is very disturbing what has been said in relation to the portrayal of women and an attitude to women.”

In the video, Mr Trump boasted about having “moved” on a married woman and being able to “do anything” to women, including “grab them by the pussy” because of his celebrity.

During the latest debate on Sunday night in the US presidential campaign, moderator Anderson Cooper pressed Mr Trump on the comments. He admitted to having made them but said he had never actually acted in such a way.

‘Deeply disturbing’

Asked about her opinion on Mr Trump’s fitness to be a candidate in the US presidential election, Ms Fitzgerald said: “As I have said it’s deeply disturbing in relation to attitude and the messages it sent out to society at large and its portrayal by him as locker room banter.

“If locker room banter is to become an excuse for the sexual assault of women, I think it has become a major issue in terms of the candidacy of anyone running for president.”

Concussion research project uses Smartphone to detect symptoms

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                             Concussion Symptoms above middle picture.

A joint Irish and Japanese research team has developed a new platform called Kiduku that can detect if a person has a concussion using a sensor and a smartphone.

For the past three years, the teams from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics based in University College Dublin (UCD) and the Japanese tech giant Fujitsu have been investing huge amounts of time into tackling the issue of concussion.

The attitude towards concussion in sport has changed rapidly over the past two years, from a condition often ignored by coaches to one given top medical priority after an incident on the pitch.

Data uploaded via smartphone

This has largely been due to the fact that while researchers know how a concussion occurs and the immediate effects, the long-term damage remains up for debate.

In the meantime, this joint Irish and Japanese team is looking to at least aid detection immediately following a head injury, using its new platform called Kiduku: an amalgamation of the Japanese phrases “to be aware” and “to construct”.

Devised by a team of physiotherapists, engineers, programmers and data visualisation experts, Kiduku would be available as an application on a person’s smartphone. It would provide clinicians with direct, easy-to-interpret sensor readings across a range of indicators such as gait, posture and balance.

The readings are taken by low cost, off-the-shelf sensor technology and uploaded to the cloud via smartphones.

The combined team has aided in the development of algorithms to interpret the readings as quickly as possible before sending them to a clinician.

Tracking the recovery?

These same sensors can also be used to capture motion data in step-down care settings and in non-clinical environments throughout the day, giving clinicians a more objective and accurate portrait of the patient’s movement and recovery over time.

“Traditional monitoring of concussion is based on in-clinic observation and patient reports,” said Prof Brian Caulfield, director of the Insight Centre.

“Patients routinely perform better in standard motion tests under observation. By analysing data from these sensors whilst in the home or exercising, we can get a more accurate picture of how a patient is moving and balancing.”

This latest announcement marks the successful completion of the first phase of the project, with plans to present the Kiduku platform at the upcoming 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Berlin on 27 and 28 October.

Interestingly, the Kiduku project began three years ago with the intention of researching monitoring services and assisted independent living for senior citizens, but it was found to be especially suited to monitoring concussion.

Risk of heart attack tripled by exercising while angry. A new study finds

Experts say extreme emotional triggers could have same effect on the body as physical exertion

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Men running at the gym. Heavy exertion doubles the chance of a heart attack, while being angry or upset at the same time triples the risk.

Attempting to “blow off steam” through vigorous exercise could triple the risk of a heart attack within the hour, experts say.

Being very upset or angry more than doubles the risk of a heart attack within an hour, while heavy physical exertion does the same, a worldwide study suggested. But combining the two – such as using extreme exercise as a way of calming down – increases the risk even further.

Experts said the study – the biggest of its kind – provides evidence of a “crucial link” between mind and body.

The research, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, suggested a doubling of the risk association between anger or emotional upset, or physical exertion, and the onset of first heart attack symptoms within one hour.

The association was much stronger – just over triple the risk – for patients who said they had been angry or emotionally upset while also engaging in heavy physical exertion.

The study’s lead author, Dr Andrew Smyth, from the population health research institute at McMaster University in Canada, said extreme emotional and physical triggers are thought to have similar effects on the body.

He added: “Both can raise blood pressure and heart rate, changing the flow of blood through blood vessels and reducing blood supply to the heart. This is particularly important in blood vessels already narrowed by plaque, which could block the flow of blood leading to a heart attack.

“Regular physical activity has many health benefits, including the prevention of heart disease, so we want that to continue. However, we would recommend that a person who is angry or upset who wants to exercise to blow off steam not go beyond their normal routine to extremes of activity.”

Researchers analysed information from 12,461 patients from 52 countries with an average age of 58. They had completed a questionnaire about the kind of “triggers” they experienced in the hour before they had a heart attack.

The results showed that 13% (1,650 people) had engaged in physical activity while 14% (1,752 people) were angry or emotionally upset.

The experts took into account the effect of other risk factors such as age, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Dr Barry Jacobs, the director of behavioural sciences at the Crozer-Keystone family medicine residency programme in Springfield, Pennsylvania, said: “This large, nearly worldwide study provides more evidence of the crucial link between mind and body.

“Excess anger, under the wrong conditions, can cause a life-threatening heart attack. All of us should practise mental wellness and avoid losing our temper to extremes. People who are at risk for a heart attack would do best to avoid extreme emotional situations.”

Maureen Talbot, a senior cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research suggests that emotional upset and excessive physical exertion can be triggers for a heart attack. Whilst this is interesting these are not the underlying causes.

“Heart attacks are mainly caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. When plaque breaks off, a blood clot forms leading to a heart attack.

“That’s why it’s important people know their heart attack risk and take steps to reduce their risk, by quitting smoking, keeping physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.”

Silkworms can produce extra super-silk quality if you feed them correctly

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Silkworms are pretty amazing creatures, and the silk they produce for their cocoons has been used by humans to create fine, durable fabrics for more than 5,000 years.

Now though, silkworms just became a little bit more fascinating.

Silkworms are the larvae of silk moths and use their silk produced in their salivary glands to produce their cocoons.

Scientists from Tsinghua University, Beijing, have found that feeding silkworms graphene or single-walled carbon nanotubes means they create fibres which aren’t only significantly stronger, they conduct electricity too.

Researchers fed the silkworms with mulberry leaves sprayed with solutions containing 0.2% of either of the two substances, before collecting the silk the worms spun for their cocoons.

The fibres collected were found to be twice as tough as standard silk, withstanding at least 50% more physical stress before breaking. Furthermore, after the team carbonised the fibres by heating them to 1,050°C they found the super-silk conducted electricity, unlike regular silk.

Silk has been a huge export for China for millenia, hence the name of the famous trade route the Silk Road.

A similar form of super-silk can be created by dissolving nanomaterials into chemical solvents and then applying them to the silk. However, such solvents are toxic and require more work to make so the feeding method is more friendly towards the environment and much easier to do.

The fibres’ qualities mean it could be used to create durable protective fabrics, biodegradable medical implants and eco-friendly wearable electronics.

Various insects create silk, but it is generally silk from moth larvae which is used to create fabrics.

The researchers said their findings open up possibilities for the large scale production of the highly-useful material.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 5th April 2016

Irish Water the elephant in the room of government talks

Healy-Rae says public has waited for 40 days for a government and was getting frustrated


Michael Healy Rae (left) and his brother Danny. Michael Healy Rae has said that Irish Water is the ‘elephant in the room’ during the government formation talks.

An Independent TD has said the issue of Irish Water is the “elephant in the room” in all the negotiations with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy-Rae said “our Lord spent 40 days in the desert” and said the Irish public had waited for a similar period for a government and that patience was now wearing thin.

Mr Healy-Rae said it was unhelpful that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have still not spoken to each other, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

On the same programme, Independent Alliance TD for Galway East Sean Canney, also called on the two largest parties to talk directly.

He said it would be wrong to spend another €40 million on a second election and said this money could be spent on tackling homelessness or employing more hospital consultants

Mr Canney said a lot of newly elected TDs, including those in Sinn Fein, had not engaged in the process of government formation and said there should be more focus on them. “What were they elected to do?”

Another Independent Alliance TD, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran says his group would make a collective decision on Wednesday on who they will back during a second vote in Dail on the election of a new Taoiseach.

The Longford Westmeath TD’s comments follow the suggestion that a number of non-party deputies may abstain from Wednesday’s vote.

A number of Independent TDs yesterday expressed anger about a tweet posted by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar on Sunday, in which he said his posters were ready for a second election if necessary.

The Panama Papers simply explained even a 5-year old can understand


The Panama Papers leak has pretty much been big news around the world. The scandal however has not been the easiest to understand for many people. A Reddit user here tries to ‘Explain it in simple terms Like I’m 5’ (ELI5) type of post that has since gone viral.

ELI5 is exactly what it sounds like – how you would explain a certain thing to a five-year-old. So how do you explain secret banking, offshore accounts and tax evasion to a five-year-old?

Here’s how Dan Gliesack explained the Panama Papers leak to five-year-olds:
When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room. You write your name on it and put it in his closet. Johnny’s mom is always very busy, so she never has time to check on his piggy bank. So you can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

Now all the kids in the neighbourhood think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s closet is full of piggy banks from everyone in the neighbourhood.
One day, Johnny’s mom comes home and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very mad and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason. Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot. Timmy wanted to save up to buy his mom a birthday present without her knowing. Sammy just did it because he thought it was fun. But many kids did do it for a bad reason. Jacob was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want his parents to figure it out. Michael was stealing money from his mom’s purse. Fat Bobby’s parents put him on a diet, and didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying candy.
Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama. Today their moms all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless, because it’s against the rules to keep secrets no matter what.

Irish Central Bank handed out severance payment of €32k to a person who did not work for it?

Another two exit packages worth €61k each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years


The Central Bank in Dublin (above left)

The state spending watchdog has criticised the Central Bank for handing out a severance payment worth €32,000 to an individual who had not even begun to work for it.

The bank suffered costs of €73,000 as a result of the case as it had to cover its own and the recruit’s legal fees.

Another two exit packages worth €61,000 each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years.

The Comptroller and Auditor General said the three payments “suggest that the Central Bank needs to review its procedures for managing recruitment and probation”.

It also noted that a long-term contractor who had never been an employee of the bank was awarded €60,000.

The report identified 14 expensive discretionary severance payments, amounting to nearly €1.5m, that were made by public sector bodies between 2011 and 2013.

The Central Bank made six of these payments, which amounted to over €540,000 including legal costs.

Between 2011 and 2013, the report said the bank had “more recourse” to termination agreements and severance payments than the other public sector bodies it examined.

“The frequency of payments could imply weaknesses in the Central Bank’s procedures for managing performance or addressing other human resource issues,” it said.

The bank clocked up its own legal costs and the costs of the employee in all but one case, but details of the legal advice it received were not documented in some cases.

The report noted that such severance payments are often made when the employment relationship breaks down “irreconcilably”.

It also says severance payments may be made to attract desirable candidates to short-term jobs.

An examination of formal severance payments awarded between 2011 and 2013 under six public sector schemes, found they had a value of €17.9m. It said nearly €11m of this was related to pension enhancements. like added years.

It found broad compliance with scheme rules in most cases, except for a scheme for chief executives of state bodies.

The report found two state bodies, who are not named, made severance payments in the form of pension enhancements worth over €1m without the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s prior approval.

According to the report, the governor of the Central Bank said the cases it was taken to task over arose in a period of unprecedented renewal and growth at the bank, as staff numbers grew by one third between 2009 and 2013.

A spokesman for the Comptroller and Auditor General said the Central Bank was the only public body named in the report, aside from the departments responsible for signing off on severance payments, because of the high number of discretionary payments it made.

Most Irish beaches meet water standards but six fail to make the cut


Bathers will have to think twice before taking the plunge at six of the country’s beaches after they failed basic water quality tests.

Among the six is Youghal in Co Cork, which continued its poor performance for a second year.

Untreated sewage in the water was the main culprit for the failures, with e. coli and other bacteria, making swimming and other water sports inadvisable and, in some cases, prohibited.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Irish Water are working to see what can be done to ensure that the beaches are given a clean bill of health before the summer season, but there are concerns they could remain no-go areas this year.

Matt Crowe, director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: “The relevant local authorities, in conjunction with Irish Water, have management plans in place to tackle the main pollution risks at these beaches and these plans are designed to return these beaches to at least ‘sufficient’ quality in the next year or two.”

The EPA also warned, however, that in some cases significant investment in infrastructure will be needed to get standards up to acceptable levels.

Some of the beaches are repeat offenders — Youghal, Co Cork; Duncannon, Co Wexford; and Ballyloughane, Galway City, failed for the second year in a row, while Rush, Co Dublin, failed for the third time in the last four years.

Newcomers to the bathing blacklist are Merrion Strand in Dublin Ccity and Loughshinny, which is close to Rush in north Co Dublin.

EPA inspectors who carry out the quality survey annually stressed the vast majority of the country’s most popular beaches and lakes were clean and clear of harmful pollutants.

Of the 137 inspected, 101 were rated as ‘excellent’ quality, as measured by EU standards, while a further 13 were classed as ‘good’ and 14 were ‘sufficient’.

Two that failed the previous year, Clifden, Co Galway, and Lilliput, Lough Ennell, Co Westmeath, improved enough to escape the blacklist this year, but further tests are awaited before they get a final rating.

The rest are rated as ‘poor’, which under EU regulations means they haven’t met the minimum standards required to give a green light for bathing and recreation.

Trá Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands was inspected for the first time last year and has not been tested enough to be ranked, but the EPA said sampling so far showed excellent results.

Failing the inspections does not automatically mean the beaches are off limits. Peter Webster, EPA senior scientist, said it meant there was “a risk of periodic microbiological pollution”.

“Local authorities are required to put in place notifications for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing, which could include a bathing prohibition if a serious pollution incident occurs,” said Mr Webster.

During the bathing season, June 1 to September 15, current water quality information and details of any restrictions on bathing are displayed on the national bathing water website, splash.epa.ie, as well as on local beach notice boards.

Bathing restrictions applied on 131 out of 14,659 ‘beach days’ last year, but most suspected pollution incidents resulted in precautionary, short-term restrictions and no evidence of pollution was subsequently discovered.

Bereaved people at greater risk of developing irregular heartbeat,

Growing body of research suggests stressful life events boost risk of heart attack or a stroke.


People who suffer the death of a partner have a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for up to a year after the event, according to new research.

People who suffer the death of a partner have a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for up to a year after the event, according to new research.

The risk of an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, is greatest among the under-60s and when the loss of the partner was least expected, the findings indicate. Atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for stroke and heart failure.

A growing body of evidence suggests that highly stressful life events boost the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but up to now it has not been clear whether this might also be true of atrial fibrillation.

The study, published in the online journal Open Heart, collected data on 88,612 people newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and 886,120 healthy people between 1995 and 2014.

The factors?

Danish researchers looked at factors that might influence atrial fibrillation risk. These included time since the bereavement; age and sex; underlying conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes; the health of the partner a month before death; and whether they were single.

Some 17,478 of those diagnosed with atrial fibrillation had lost their partner as had 168,940 of the comparison group.

Underlying illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and associated treatment for these conditions, were more common among those who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

But the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the first time was 41 per cent higher among those who had been bereaved than it was among those who had not experienced such a loss, the findings indicated.

This heightened risk was apparent, irrespective of gender and other underlying conditions.

The risk seemed to be greatest eight to 14 days following a death, after which it gradually subsided until after a year the risk was similar to that of someone who had not been bereaved.

People under the age of 60 were more than twice as likely to develop atrial fibrillation if they had been bereaved.

Those whose partners were relatively healthy in the month before death were 57 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. No such increased risk was seen among those whose partners were not healthy and who were expected to die soon.

As an observational study, the research does not permit firm conclusions to be drawn about cause and effect.

Researchers suggest acute stress may directly disrupt normal heart rhythms and prompt the production of chemicals involved in inflammation.

Further research looking at whether the association found applies to more common, but less severe life stressors, is warranted, they say.

Seagulls are 10 times more polluting to beaches than people?

Merrion Strand (below left) in Dublin is polluted with human sewage and bird droppings, An EPA report finds.

   BEACHES_0016_LKM.jpg Rose Feerick and David Strohm pass through hundreds of seagulls as they walk along Venice Beach in Half Moon Bay. The beach has some of the most polluted water in the state, which could partially be caused by large number of seagulls that gather there. (Laura Morton/Special to the Chronicle) *** Rose Feerick
 *** David Strohm Photo: Laura Morton   

“The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about ten times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day,” said EPA senior scientific officer, Peter Webster.

Seagulls are 10 times more polluting to the country’s beaches than people, according to the latest water quality report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The birds have been blamed as one of the reasons for the EPA’s decision to brand water quality at Merrion Strand in Dublin as poor, since they have taken to resting in large number on a sandbar.

“The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about 10 times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day,” said EPA senior scientific officer, Peter Webster.

Six beaches, including Merrion, have been given “poor” grades, which means that local authorities will put up warnings to swimmers, but will not ban them from swimming there.

However, the EPA report found three-quarters of sites it inspected were “excellent” and 93.4 per cent met minimum EU standards – roughly in line with last year’s numbers.

Those classed as “poor” were Youghal, Co Cork; Duncannon Co Waterford; Rush south beach. Co Dublin and Ballyloughane, Co Galway all of which were first classed as “poor” in 2014, as well as Merrion Strand and Loughshinny in Dublin which were classified as poor for the first time in 2015.

No inland bathing areas were classified as having poor water quality.

EPA senior scientific officer Peter Webster said problems at Merrion Strand in south Dublin were “complex, on-going and difficult to resolve”.

Two factors had been identified. First was the presence the Trimleston and Elm Park streams which were found to be polluted with sewage. Mr Webster said this could be a result of “poor housing connections” from anywhere as far as the M50.

The second issue was an offshore sandbar which had become home to populations of seagulls and wading birds. The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about ten times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day, he said.

The EPA said where bathing waters were classified as poor, the advice was not to bathe. Where such a classification was made, local authorities must publicise the advice, or in more extreme cases close the beach.

In a statement on Monday evening Fingal County Council said it had agreed a management plan for Loughshinny Beach bathing water with the EPA, “who are satisfied that the measures set out in the plan will achieve an improvement in water quality”.

In relation to the other coastal areas, remediation measures are being put in place by agreement between the local authorities and the EPA.

Mr Webster said a complicating factor in the report was that data was compiled over a four year period, so the data applying to 2015 was collected between 2012 and 2015.

In the case of Loughsinny a once-off event in 2014 had caused a major pollution leak, but previous years had pulled the overall result up. Since 2015 was marginally worse than 2011, “the data tipped” into the poor classification this year, he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 26th August 2015

Irish Developers sent on golf and F1 trips by banks as perks


Two of the country’s leading property developers have revealed details of corporate hospitality lavished on them and their associates by banks during the boom.

AIB organised trips for senior management to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and to the Ryder Cup in the US.

Trips to the Ryder Cup in Kentucky and other major sporting events were among junkets detailed by developers Gerry Gannon and Peter Cosgrave in statements to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry.

Former AIB group managing director Colm Doherty also told the inquiry that entertainment it provided to developers was “multi-faceted, occurring across a number of countries in which we operated”.

Impossible list of hospitality?

In a written submission to the inquiry, Mr Gannon detailed a trip to the Ryder Cup courtesy of AIB in 2008, a trip to Venice with Anglo Irish Bank and further corporate hospitality afforded to him by Anglo at a race meeting at the Curragh.

Another executive director of Gannon Homes, Aidan Kenny, went on a trip to Paris with Anglo, Mr Gannon told the inquiry.

Mr Cosgrave said it was impossible to provide the inquiry with an exhaustive list of hospitality arranged by the banks for senior executives in the Cosgrave Property Group.

However, in a written submission, he was able to outline trips to several of the world’s top sporting events, as well as golf days in the UK, France and the US, courtesy of Ulster Bank, AIB, EBS and Bank of Ireland.

Trips to the Irish and British Open golf tournaments were organised by Ulster Bank, while it and AIB took senior executives to the US Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

AIB organised trips for senior management to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and to the Ryder Cup in the US.

  1. Horse racing also featured on the list provided by Mr Cosgrave.
  2. Bank of Ireland took company executives to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
  3. AIB and EBS hosted senior management at race meetings in Punchestown and Leopardstown.
  4. There was also a one-off ski trip and visits to the opera and theatre organised by Ulster Bank.

In a written submission, Mr Doherty told the inquiry that where corporate hospitality was valued in excess of €500, it had to be recorded in a business unit register within the bank.

He said he believed the corporate hospitality and entertainment spending by AIB on corporate clients was “generally appropriate” and “on par with common practice in the industry”.

He said he could not comment on the extent of entertainment provided by the bank to developers.

However, he said he was aware that AIB had taken “a large contingent of property clients” to the Ryder Cup in Kentucky.

These were also provided with the use of corporate boxes in Croke Park and tickets for rugby and soccer matches, concerts and the theatre.


Mr Doherty said AIB had developed a policy on the giving and receiving of gifts in 2003, setting out ethical standards for staff to abide by.

This permitted gifts, benefits or entertainment valued at up to €500. Any gifts valued between €500 and €1,000 had to be registered, he said.

Pre-approval was required for the acceptance of any gifts, benefits or entertainment valued in excess of €1,000.

Mr Doherty said he believed the limits set out in the policy were appropriate.

He said he was aware of only one instance where hospitality received by AIB staff members from a loan client was deemed inappropriate.

“This occurred in our UK business. In this case the executives involved were subject to disciplinary proceedings, resigned and left the bank,” he said.

Kathleen Lynch confident she will get extra funding for mental health


The Minister with responsibility for Mental Health said that she is confident that she can secure extra funding for services.

The group Mental Health Reform has launched its ‘Invest in my Mental Health’ campaign, setting out how an extra €35m is needed.

Minister Kathleen Lynch said that she will be fighting for the increased budget.

“It may come as a surprise now to Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, and I’m saying this publicly but that is the aim,” said Minister Lynch.

Minister Lynch admits there are still recruitment issues in the mental health services area.

But she says there’s been substantial progress on waiting lists for young people.

“There is one issue in terms of child and adolescent mental health services which I was hugely concerned about and so was mental health reform, and we have managed to make progress on that.

“We have the waiting lists reduced considerably, it’s reducing month-on-month, and if we go the way we’re going, those waiting lists will no longer be there at the end of this year. We will have no one waiting longer than 12 months.”

Irish surveyors rule out rent controls as ‘retrograde’


No rent controls, a reduction in Vat on new homes, tax breaks for landlords and an apprenticeship scheme for construction workers are among a list of demands for the Government unveiled by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland yesterday.

In a pre-budget submission, the SCSI has called on the Government to support the delivery of more housing units, more commercial office space and to introduce an apprenticeship scheme to address the skills shortage and create more jobs.

The SCSI, which is the professional representative body for the property, land and construction sectors, said Budget 2016 was an opportune time to put in place key measures to create a more sustainable sector.

The SCSI’s recommendations for the housing sector include:

  • A temporary reduction in Vat on new homes from 13.5% to 9% for properties up to a value of €300,000.
  • A more favourable tax regime for professional providers of rental accommodation.
  • A reduction in development levies.
  • More commercially priced finance for developers.
  • The introduction of low- cost modular housing for people in need of emergency accommodation.

Andrew Nugent, president of the SCSI said: “We are calling for the introduction of a suite of measures that would kick-start building and increase supply.

“The Housing Agency has projected a need for 21,000 units annually and we are currently building less than half of that figure and we now need some short-term measures to stimulate house building activity,” he said.

Commenting on recent coverage on proposals to introduce rent controls, Mr Nugent described this as a retrograde step: “International evidence has shown that rent controls do not work in markets where there is an acute supply shortage.

“Building more units and supporting the financing of rental schemes will make rents more affordable, not artificial controls.”

In the commercial property market, the SCSI has called on Government to increase in available development finance at more attractive rates for viable developments.

It pointed to the recent announcement of a €500m joint venture between the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and KKR Credit for house building and said that similar funds should be considered for commercial projects.

“One of the main sources of delay on commercial projects coming to the market is difficulties accessing finance. We need to see more finance at commercial rates being made available,” said Nugent.

To advance the construction of commercial buildings in strategic locations, the society is recommending that the IDA should underwrite the rent for office buildings in these areas.

“The IMF estimates suggest that as much as 27% of Ireland’s potential economic output was lost between 2008 and 2013 and the SCSI believes that investment in essential public infrastructure including transport, social housing and broadband provision must be prioritised in terms of public capital investment,” said Nugent.

The SCSI said the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme which has attracted nearly €300 million worth of construction work should be extended beyond 2015.

The proposals are outlined in the SCSI’s pre-budget submission 2016 document, Building for Growth.

Women urged to know their heart attack risks


Most Irish women have no idea what the biggest killer of females in this country is — wrongly presuming their number one threat is cancer.

A survey for the Irish Heart Foundation found only one in 10 women correctly identified cardiovascular disease — mainly heart attacks and strokes — as the single biggest killer of females here, responsible for about one in three deaths.

The majority believed cancer, in particular breast cancer, claimed most lives despite the fact that women are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer.

A campaign to make women more aware of the disease and how best to avoid it is being run by the Irish Heart Foundation.

The Red Alert campaign aims to dispel some of the myths and misinformation around cardiovascular disease, alert women to the risk factors, and help them make better lifestyle choices to minimise their chances of falling victim to it.

Dr Angie Brown, a consultant cardiologist and medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, said women tend to view a heart attack as mainly a man’s problem, with 75% of women believing more men die from heart disease when in fact the death rate is equal.

“Most women are more concerned about breast cancer even though six times as many women die from heart disease and stroke in Ireland each year. Our goal is to alert women that especially after the menopause, they are at risk of heart attack and stroke, as much as any man.”

She said women’s hormones protect against heart disease but after the menopause, their risk caught up with that of a man.

Dr Brown also said women sometimes delayed getting to hospital after a heart attack because their symptoms could be less clear than those experienced by men. A woman may experience more vague symptoms such as nausea, tiredness, shortness of breath, rather than the more usual crushing pain in the chest. The good news is that 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable and a positive lifestyle can alter risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“This September’s Red Alert is a wake-up call to every woman in Ireland to take care of her heart health.

“Remember, it’s usually not the fancy stuff that makes you live longer, it’s about the basics: weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, being active, quitting smoking and knowing your family history,” she said.

Norah Casey, an ambassador for the campaign, lost her father to a heart attack and is conscious about heart health: “It was a devastating lesson to learn about the importance of heart health. Heart disease is one of the few largely preventable diseases and we hold the key to heart health in our hands — we just need to use it.”

Theft is more likely to involve an electronic device when you’re outside of London

 Smartphones and tablets are more likely to be taken during a theft in Leicestershire than in London, new research shows.

Data obtained by a series of Freedom of Information requests to England’s police forces by security and communications firm ViaSat found that while electronic device theft accounted for 27% of theft reports to City of London and the Metropolitan Police, the figure rose to 51% in Leicestershire.

This was much higher than the national average; which was 19% of all thefts being device-related. However, ViaSat reported a drop in total reported thefts compared to similar research carried out last year – with reports to the Metropolitan Police falling 37% alone, and on average 34% across the country.

ViaSat chief executive Chris McIntosh said that personal data on the devices was still a draw for criminals: “Whether a corporate smartphone, a personal tablet, or your bank manager’s laptop, there is a huge amount of information stored on electronic devices that can compromise our privacy.

“The simple fact is that, for many thieves, the most tempting target isn’t necessarily the device itself, but what it contains. From access to your bank records; to blackmail; to flat-out identity theft, a lost or stolen device can still damage its owner long after it’s stolen.

“As the largest city in the UK, with the most visitors, London will have a disproportionate number of thefts. But as we can see from these results, wherever you are in the UK you need to not only be wary of your own devices; but make sure that anyone who records and stores your sensitive data does so responsibly and securely.”

Between March 1 2014 and February 2015, there were 285,312 reports of theft to the City of London and Metropolitan Police, with 77,243 involving electronic equipment. In Leicestershire there were 8,661 reports of theft, with 4,451 involving electronics.

Scientists discover new reef that might be even bigger than the Great Barrier Reef


You know Great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast of Australia that you’ve seen in countless videos and pictures? Well, it turns out there’s yet another similarly impressive reef that’s located near the same country.

The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, and Mashable reports that it might have an actual rival located in the south of Australia. Officials from Parks Victoria said that the newly exposed Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park reef near Melbourne can match the Great Barrier Reef in terms of the abundance of coral, sponge and fish.

The problem with the Victoria reef, however, is that it’s located deeper underwater than the Queensland reef, making it inaccessible to snorkelers.

Scientists from the parks service used an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to explore the region for the first time and revealed some interesting findings of the underwater area.

“The resulting footage shows that the deep reef habitats are teeming with life and are home to rich and abundant marine ecosystems that are comparable to Australia’s better-known tropical reef areas,” Parks Victoria Marine Science Manager Steffan Howe said. “The extent and abundance of spectacular sponge gardens and corals is a particularly exciting find.”

The scientists found coral fans and dunes that measured at around 30 meters high and 2 kilometers long that house rare fish such as the Australian barracuda and Longsnout Boarfish and also “large sea whips and colorful sponge gardens beyond scientists expectations.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 8th April 2015

GPO women in chains proclaim ‘ownership of their own bodies’


Feminist group seeks to ‘shine light on this country and on issue of reproductive rights’

Members of the Speaking of Imelda performance group chained themselves to the columns of the General Post Office in Dublin for two hours on Monday as they made an unofficial contribution to celebrations of the Easter Rising of 1916.

“There is something very symbolic about us coming back. The original Proclamation was supported by some of Ireland’s ‘exiled children’ and we are some of Ireland’s exiled children coming back from abroad. We should be listened to.”

Members of Speaking of Imelda, a direct-action feminist performance group that operates from England, chained themselves to the columns outside the General Post Office in Dublin for two hours on Monday as they made an unofficial contribution to celebrations of the Easter Rising of 1916.

Dressed in red, the women, who operate as a collective and refuse to be named individually, read out their alternative proclamation for Ireland 99 years after Patrick Pearse marked the beginning of the Easter Rising by reading out the original Proclamation, also outside the GPO.

·         The “proclamation” from Speak of Imeldaread:

·         “Irish men and Irish women

·         And all who live in Ireland

·         In the name of citizenship

·         Promised to us on these steps

We declare the right of all people in Ireland to ownership of their own bodies

And to control their own destinies”

The group, which had travelled over from London to be present at RTÉ’s Road to the Rising event, also called for repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

The amendment states: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The majority of Speak of Imelda’s members were born in Ireland, a spokeswoman said. Some have been living in the UK for decades, others for only a year. They also draw support from people of Irish descent.

“I know that it’s a terrible thing to say, but being outside the country has given me a different perspective on being a woman,” said a member of the group. “We see all these tragedies happening, and you are away from home and you feel helpless.

“As Irish citizens we are special. Lots of people emigrate largely because they can’t find work. They go abroad to live in more liberal societies and forget about Ireland.

‘No longer silent’

“But we refuse to go away and be quiet. We are no longer silent. We can no longer be quiet women,” she said.

While Irish politics tends to get little international attention, the group plans to “shine the light on this country and on the issue of reproductive rights.

“Every time an Irish politician comes to England, we will be there and raise this.”

The group had been true to their “punk, direct action, public performance origins” since they came together in 2013.

Knickers presentation

Most notably, they made a presentation of a pair of large women’s knickers complete with “Repeal the Eighth” slogan to Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a political fundraising dinner in London in October 2014.

The resultant “knicker-bombing” video went viral on social media.

Speak of Imelda, which favours both large pants and large social media incursions, dress in red because women from the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group would wear a red skirt so women travelling to meet them to have an abortion in England would recognise them at airports or stations.

The name Imelda was employed as a codename by women travelling to England for abortions between 1986 and 1995.

“I would come back to live here, but I have a nine-year-old daughter – and I will not bring her to live in a place where she does not have bodily autonomy,” said one member of the group.

According to British Department of Heath figures for 2014, up to 10 women are thought to leave the Irish State every day to get an abortion in the UK.

‘I have never missed a repayment, but you are bleeding us dry’

An angry customer attacks bosses

Permanent TSB Chairman Alan Cook heckled by attendees at meeting


I have never missed repayment, but you are bleeding us dry – angry customer attacks bank bosses at Permanent TSB AGM

A Permanent TSB mortgage customer has vented her anger at what she called the discrimination of one cohort of customers.

Frustrated mortgage holder Sarah Hogan told the company’s AGM this afternoon that even though she has the same mortgage value as her neighbour, she pays €118 more per month on her mortgage.

Ms Hogan asked Permanent TSB Group CEO Jeremy Masding and chairman Alan Cook today if they think this is fair.

However, the bank said it is not planning to cut rates.

“I am charged 4.5pc on my existing mortgage. My neighbour with the same loan value, the same term, the same loan to value ratio is paying 3.8pc. I pay €118 more per month to the bank and this adds up to more than €36,000 over the remaining life of the mortgage. And I ask you Sir, is this fair?”

“I have never missed repayment. We are not in arrears. We are not looking for a special deal. We are looking to be treated the same.”

PTSB shareholder: ‘All I can say is Permanent TSB my arse’

The Bray woman, who has been banking with TSB for six years, also spoke at Permanent TSB’s AGM three years ago. She said the bank announced a “token” rate reduction after this.

Today, she told the bank bosses not to “insult” her with detailed banking rhetoric.

“You’ll speak of the blended cost of funds. That’s not good enough. The European average rate is a little over 2pc. Your margin on our mortgage is greater than that.”

“‘Banking for life, we are with you every step of the way’ – that’s what your website proclaims. And you most certainly are, Sir. You are bleeding us dry.”

“Let me finish by asking you a question, Mr Masding and Mr Cook, do you think that it is fair and just to continue to treat one cohort of customers so very differently to another.”

“And please do not insult me with detailed rhetoric about the blended cost of funds. I am paying today and I want action today.”

“Do you think that it is fair to discriminate against one cohort of customers? Is this fair and right? Two groups, same mortgages, same terms, same loan-to-values, two very, very different rates.”

Ms Hogan claimed that her last speech at the TSB AGM was followed by “empty promises”.

“You may remember that I stood in this room three years ago and spoke to you, because at the time the bank was charging the highest standard variable rate in the land,” she told

“The bank then announced with great fanfare a token reduction in that rate, together with empty promises about more to come, and now I find myself here again this year.”

In response to Ms Hogan’s speech, Alan Cook responded: “What we’ve got to do is find a way to drive down those input costs that I talked about earlier such that we are able to share that reduced cost with our customers.”

“But we don’t have an option of saying ‘we will deliberately run those mortgages at a loss when we have a restructuring plan.”

21 new routes set to take off soon from Dublin Airport


Aer Lingus planes at Dublin Airport

The airport said it was introducing 16 short-haul routes to continental Europe.

It is also launching five long-haul connections from Ireland’s main airport to the US airports of Washington, Chicago and LA. There is also a new route to Ethiopia. Dublin Airport said it would be offering 2m extra seats this summer – an 11% increase in capacity on last summer.

Airport managing director Vincent Harrison said: “We are particularly pleased that Dublin will have a direct connection to sub-Saharan Africa this summer, making it easier for our customers to access three continents – Africa, Europe and North America – with Ethiopian Airlines’ new Addis Ababa-Dublin-LA route, as well as direct services to Europe, the Middle East and North America.

“Significant increases in seat capacity and frequency on 25 existing routes will give our customers greater flexibility and more options, whether they are travelling for business or leisure purposes, during this summer season.”

Dublin Airport has run marketing campaigns to attract passengers from Northern Ireland.

But Belfast International has fought back, adding one-off seasonal routes to Orlando and Las Vegas during the summer.

And last week Belfast International saw the take-off of new flights to Poland, Italy and Czech Republic. Jet2.com will also start connections with Gran Canaria, Italy and Greece from Belfast International later this year.

Belfast City Airport, meanwhile, starts a new route with BA’s sister airline Vueling to Barcelona, next month. Dutch airline KLM is also starting flights to Amsterdam next month from Belfast City.

Could drinking pomegranate juice prevent a heart attack?

Scientists say that half a glass pomegranate juce and three dates a day an boost heart health


A Super food? Pomegranate juice could help prevent heart disease, research now suggests?

Pomegranates have been shown to reduce stress, fight arthritis and even help with impotence. Now, a study suggests that just a daily half-glass of the super-fruit’s juice could protect against heart attacks and strokes, too.

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology examined mice with high cholesterol, as well as lab-grown arterial cells, in a trial.

The team found that consumption of pomegranate juice and dates dramatically slowed down the rate of therosclerosis – the build-up of fatty substances in the arteries which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Overall, arterial cholesterol content decreased by 28 per cent.

  • Why you should never eat a bacon sandwich: what you can – and can’t – eat

The high levels of different antioxidants in the two fruits are believed to provide the perfect combination to help fight heart disase, with the team recommending that people consume half a glass of pomegranate juice (around 115ml), together with three dates every day to benefit.

Although the regime sounds easy, many of the most powerful antioxidants are stored in the dates’ stones or pits – so team leader Professor Michael Aviram advised grinding up the stones into a paste and consuming those as well.

Pomegranates have long been known to be a valuable source of polyphenols and anthocyanins, which have various health benefits, including helping the body protect itself against cancer.

The fruit is also rich in vitamins A, C and E and iron.

The findings were published in the most recent issue of Food & Function, a journal of The Royal Society of Chemistry.

How did the moon form? Violent cosmic crash theory gets a boost


The formation of the moon has long remained a mystery, but new studies support the theory that the moon was formed from debris left from a collision between the newborn Earth and a Mars-size rock, with a veneer of meteorites coating both afterward.

Earth was born about 4.5 billion years ago, and scientists think the moon arose a short time later. The leading explanation for the moon’s origin, known as the Giant Impact Hypothesis, was first proposed in the 1970s. It suggests the moon resulted from the collision of two protoplanets, or embryonic worlds. One of those was the just-forming Earth, and the other was a Mars-size object called Theia. The moon then coalesced from the debris.

The long-standing challenges this scenario faces are rooted in the chemistry of the moon. Most of the models of the giant-impact theory often say that more than 60% of the moon should be made of material from Theia. The problem is that most bodies in the solar system have unique chemical makeups, and Earth, Theia and therefore the moon should as well. However, rock samples from the moon reveal that it is puzzlingly more similar to Earth than such models would predict when it comes to versions of elements called isotopes. (Each isotope of an element has different numbers of neutrons.)

This artist’s rendition depicts the catastrophic collision of two planetary bodies similar in composition that led to the formation of the Earth and its moon 4.5 billion years ago.

“In terms of composition, the Earth and moon are almost twins, their compositions differing by at most few parts in a million,” study lead author Alessandra Mastrobuono-Battisti, an astrophysicist at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, told Space.com. “This contradiction has cast a long shadow on the giant-impact model.”

To shed light on this mystery, Mastrobuono-Battisti and her colleagues simulated collisions in the early solar system of between 85 to 90 protoplanets — each of which had up to 10 percent of Earth’s mass, — and 1,000 to 2,000 smaller bodies, called planetesimals. Each of the latter had masses that were about 0.25 percent of Earth’s. [How the Moon Was Made (Infographic)]

The researchers simulated the collisions taking place in a disk pattern that extended from half an astronomical unit (AU) to 4.5 AU from the sun. (An astronomical unit is the average distance between the sun and Earth, which is about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)

The scientists found that within 100 million to 200 million years after the models began, each simulation typically produced three to four rocky planets, with the largest comparable to Earth’s mass.

These worlds often were composed of material that was distinct from one another. However, they also found that 20 to 40 percent of the time, the composition of one planet was very similar to the makeup of the last protoplanet that had collided with it. This likelihood is about 10 times higher than previous estimates.

“The most exciting and surprising thing was to find out that we can shed new light on a 30-year-old mystery,” study co-author Hagai Perets, an astrophysicist at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, told Space.com. “Compositionally similar planet-impactor pairs are not rare at all.”

Mastrobuono-Battisti, Perets and their colleague Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux in France, detailed their findings in the April 9 issue of the journal Nature

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 5th March 2015

See how your local hospital fared on heart attack deaths and strokes


A report from the Department of Health has published a report naming hospitals and showing their death rates.

The department of Health has, for the first time, published a report that compares death rates in hospitals and names the hospitals.

The report details deaths from heart attacks and stroke as well as waiting times for certain procedures, cancer survival rates and the rates of Caesarean sections at maternity units.

In a statement today, the department’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan said patients “have the right to know the type of information contained in this report”.

“Ultimately it will help to improve services and patient outcomes and it will, I hope, commence a public discussion on these important issues.”

Reports like this empower patients and service users to make informed decisions about their health care, help health care providers to improve their performance through benchmarking with other services, and they facilitate system-wide quality improvement in health care by informing national policies.

The table below, taken from the report, shows the rates of death in the various hospitals within 30 days of admission for a heart attack:

It shows the highest rates are at Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, Cavan General Hospital and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. The lowest rates are seen at Midland Regional is Portlaoise.

For ischaemic stroke, the hospitals with the highest rate between 2011 and 2013 were Cavan General Hospital and Cork University Hospital.

Overall in-hospital death rates have been dropping in the last ten years, however:

Caesarean section rates were highest for St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, followed by Mayo General Hospital and lowest for Sligo General Hospital.

Details on cancer survival rates for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers were also included in the report as well as waiting times for hip fracture surgery, which haven’t changed much in the last ten years.

Today Dr Holohan pointed out that there is no such thing as “perfect data” but the indicators presented in this report “signal to us that certain services require further analysis and examination in order to identify if a problem exists”.

One can draw on the analogy of a smoke alarm going off. Further investigation may reveal a faulty smoke alarm or an actual fire.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed the publication of the report, saying he is a strong believer in transparency and open data.

“As they say, if you don’t measure it, you cannot improve it and without regular measurement and reporting you cannot know if your policies and reforms are actually making a positive difference.”

The Mental health review will change patient interaction with Irish health services


Kathleen Lynch says changes in controversial ECT to be implemented before summer

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment.

A major review of health legislation due to be published today will change how people suffering with mental health issues interact with services on offer, says Minister of State Kathleen Lynch.

Ms Lynch said that she hoped to see the changes in how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is administered to patients before the summer recess.

“There’s already a bill in the Senate and the first day I was in this job I dealt with this bill and on that occasion said that at the very first opportunity we would deal with the administration of ECT.”

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment.

At present, the mental health Act states that ECT may be administered where a patient is “unable or unwilling” to give consent once it has been approved by two consultant psychiatrists.

“I’ve always believed, and the experts tell me.., that in relation to ECT it can be helpful in certain circumstances,” said Ms Lynch. “But where someone has capacity and says no, I don’t want that treatment, then we have to listen to that and that’s what they will be doing.”

“I’m glad to see that they’ve [expert panel]come up with the recommendations which will change, not just our legislation governing mental health, but it will change how people who have difficulties with their mental health interact with the service.”

The current legislation is regarded by many campaigners as outdated given the growing emphasis on care in the community and demands for greater autonomy by patient groups.

Ms Lynch said careful steps must be taken when amending the current legislation to reflect patients’ rights.

“We’ll have to be very careful about how it dovetails with the assisted decision making capacity legislation,” she said, adding that she hopes to see the other recommendations from the report implemented before the Government leaves office.

The report contains a total of 165 proposals which seek to strengthen patients’ rights, extend the remit of watchdog bodies and place greater emphasis on children’s services.

Ms Lynch said today’s health legislation review will follow on from the Government’s mental health policy A Vision for Change, adding that the public perception of mental health has changed since the document was published in 2006.

“I have to say A Vision for Change has had a greater impact on how we view people with mental health issues and how they’re treated as well,” she said. “I think the recovery element, which is embedded in A Vision for Change, has in fact changed. The perception of mental health has changed how practitioners view people.”

Asked to comment on reports that an offer of € 100 per child for GPs has been made as part of the negotiations relating to free GP care for children under the age of 6, Ms Lynch said she was not part of the “fee sitting element” of the discussions.

“We’ve just been informed of the global figure which the negotiators have been negotiating around and as you probably know that’s € 25 million.”

Ms Lynch said she trusted GPs to always deliver the best possible care to their patients.

“I believe GPs want to deliver the best service to their patients and have been doing it for as long as we’ve had the GMS service in this country.”

Gender pay gap between men and women in Ireland goes up to 14.4%


Eurostat figures show inequality pay gap figures in salaries in EU as high as almost 30%.

Data from Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistics body, reveal women earned almost a sixth less per hour than men in 2012, up from 12.6% in 2008.

The pay gap between men and women in Ireland has widened in recent years, with women earning 14.4% less than men for their work, most recent figures show.

Data from Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistics body, reveal women earned almost a sixth less per hour than men in 2012, up from 12.6% in 2008.

On average across the EU in 2013, women earned 16.4% less than men, but the gender pay gap ranged from 3.2% in Slovenia to 29.9% in Estonia.

Eurostat said there were various reasons for the existence and size of a gender pay gap and that they may differ strongly between member states. They include the kind of jobs held by women, the consequences of breaks in career or part-time work due to childbearing and decisions in favour of family life.

Tackling inequality

New Eurobarometer statistics also published on Thursday suggested a large majority of Irish (81%) and EU (76%) citizens believe that tackling inequality between women and men should be a priority for the EU.

Some 94% of Irish respondents and 91% of EU respondents in the survey agreed that tackling inequality between men and women was necessary to establish a fairer society.

Some 59% of Irish and EU respondents said violence against women, especially sexual violence, was the area the EU should address most urgently.

Some 68 per cent of female respondents across the EU believed inequalities were widespread in their country, while 57%of male respondents believed this to be the case.

Just over half of all respondents in Ireland (54%) believed inequalities between men and women were widespread in the country, while the figure across the European Union was 62%.

Although the figure for Ireland is lower than the EU average, it has seen the highest rise (+11 percentage points) since 2009 when it was 43%.

Effective methods

When asked about the most effective ways to tackle gender inequality and increase the number of women in the labour market, Irish respondents at 52% were most likely to say making childcare more accessible. The EU average was 36%.

The fieldwork for the Eurobarometer survey was carried out last November and December. Some 27,801 interviews were carried out across the European Union, with 1,003 of those taking place in Ireland.

Scientists now create a new tough resilient self-cleaning paint


Researchers from University College London have developed a resilient super-hydrophobic paint, impervious to water and oils, that cleans itself

A new paint that makes robust self-cleaning surfaces has been developed by a team led by UCL researchers.

The coating can be applied to clothes, paper, glass and steel and when combined with adhesives, maintains its self-cleaning properties after being wiped, scratched with a knife and scuffed with sandpaper.

Self-cleaning surfaces work by being extremely repellent to water but often stop working when they are damaged or exposed to oil.

The new paint creates a more resilient surface that is resistant to everyday wear and tear, so could be used for a wide range of real-world applications from clothing and cars, say the researchers.

Mars once had an ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean on Earth


NASA scientists have analysed the water signatures in Mars’ atmosphere to determine that the planet once had a primitive ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean on Earth.

The question about water on Mars has shifted from “was there?” to “how much?” According to the latest research from NASA, the answer is “a lot.”

After conducting a ground-based analysis of the water in the Red Planet’s atmosphere, a team led by Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has determined that not only was Mars once home to an ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean, but also how much of that water has been lost.

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” Villanueva said. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

The volume of this ocean, which existed some 4.3 billion years ago, would have been at least 20 million cubic kilometres (5 million cubic miles). The Arctic Ocean has a volume of just over 18 million cubic kilometres.

On Mars, this volume would have been sufficient to cover the planet’s entire surface in a liquid layer 137 metres (450 feet) deep — however, the more likely scenario is that the ocean covered almost half of the planet’s northern hemisphere, the low-lying Northern Plains — around 19 percent of the surface of Mars — reaching depths of 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) in places.

The team used the European Southern Observatory’s powerful Very Large Telescope in Chile, and the W.M. Keck Observatory and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii to examine two different types of water in Mars’ atmosphere: H2O, which makes up most of the water on Earth; and HDO, or “heavy water,” in which one of the hydrogen atoms is replaced with a heavy hydrogen isotope called deuterium, which can be found in unusually high proportions on the Mars surface.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 30th March 2014

New whistleblower fears backlash when she returns to work


An ambulance whistle-blower believes there are not enough ambulances in the mid-west region to cover a major emergency like a plane crash.

Shirley McEntee above, an ambulance controller and trained paramedic in Limerick, warned that crews in the mid-west were “run ragged” and “going without food for hours” trying to respond to patients because of a lack of ambulances.

M/s McEntee, who appeared in the recent RTE ‘Prime Time’ edition featuring the ambulance service, raised concerns about the impact of a major disaster on the emergency services in the mid-west region.

“The lads are great, but there is still not enough vehicles to cover an emergency – if a plane crashed – there is definitely not enough ambulances for it,” she said.

“There’s only two crews on a Monday and Tuesday night in Limerick. There’s no such thing as peak time in all fairness.

“It could be a Sunday afternoon at 2pm or it could be 2am. It could be anytime.

“You can’t really give a peak time for an emergency service.” Currently on sick leave, M/s McEntee is due back at work next week.

And she said she fears repercussion from management for going public about her allegations that the service is completely overstretched.

M/s McEntee said she had not heard from management since her appearance on the programme but she has received backing from co-workers.

She added: “It’s time that the paramedics and advanced paramedics got someone to stick up for them, because they’re brilliant at their jobs,” she told Joe Nash, presenter of ‘Limerick Today’ on Live 95fm.

“They work very, very, very hard. They don’t get official lunch breaks; they mightn’t get anything to eat for hours. They just need a bit of praise as well.”

HSE director general Tony O’Brien said that he has “considerable confidence” in the ambulance service and its leadership.

However, he said that “nobody” in the HSE believed the service is “where it needs to be” and significant change was taking place.

HSE are asked to reveal if staff claim mileage expense for rapid response services


Dublin’s emergency fire and ambulance workers have called on the HSE to reveal if their staff claim mileage for using its rapid response vehicles.

And the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has confirmed it is to conduct a six-month review of the country’s ambulance service.

The review was confirmed by HIQA deputy director Mary Dunnion, who said that overseas ambulance executives will be consulted.

It is not directly related to the revelations in an RTE Prime Time programme about delays in ambulances arriving at critical call-outs and some parts of the country being effectively left without ambulance cover during busy periods.

The programme also claimed that expensive National Ambulance Service (NAS) resources are under-utilised, with some rapid response vehicles used more like company cars.


The NAS has hit back at the allegations, insisting it was offering “a world-class service”.

However, the investigation revealed that the number of emergency ambulances in Ireland has been reduced from 320 in 2008 to 265 last year.

The programme also showed that HSE supervisors are using the specially kitted-out SUVs and cars for personal transport.

The vehicles with sirens and lights are branded as ambulances and designed to be used to administer emergency treatment but not to carry patients.

While the HSE told RTE the vehicles can be pressed into action if needed, the Prime Time programme found many are being used like company cars.

“I want to know if staff using these vehicles are claiming mileage,” said John Kidd, chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association.

“It’s totally wrong that these vehicles which cost millions to the taxpayer are being used in this way while the ambulance fleet is breaking down.”


The HSE could not answer the question on whether mileage was being claimed for the use of rapid response vehicles, but said during the period January to March 2014 the vehicles were used in 629 emergency call-outs, 252 of which were outside working hours.

Mr Kidd also said the national ambulance service should be reported to the Revenue to see if benefit-in-kind should be paid on the rapid response vehicles if HSE staff are using them as personal transport.

The HSE is trying to take over Dublin Fire Brigade’s provision of the ambulance service in the capital in its efforts to form a national ambulance service for the whole country.

But Mr Kidd said with Dublin Fire Brigade responding to 40pc of the national ambulance calls, but only receiving 8pc of the national budget, he finds it hard to understand how the HSE would save money in the move without depleting services.

Big death risk for Irish fishermen working in their industry

(44 killed in 10 years)


A total of 44 fishermen have been killed in the last 10 years, in 24 separate fatal incidents

Irish fishermen are 40 times more likely to be killed doing their job than the average worker, a new safety campaign has warned.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) highlighted the stark statistic as it launched an awareness raising drive aimed at reducing rates of death and serious injury in the fishing sector.

A total of 44 fishermen have been killed in the last 10 years, in 24 separate fatal incidents.

The HSA said the main cause of the incidents was a vessel taking on water or capsizing and then sinking.

The next most common cause of fatalities was entanglement in nets or other gear and being dragged overboard.

The authority said in many cases the fishermen were not wearing personal flotation devices.

The sea fishing industry in Ireland has a workforce of almost 5,000 people directly employed and a registered fleet in excess of 2,100 vessels.

The HSA said in the last five years the fatality rate in the general working population was 2.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, while in fishing it was 92 per 100,000 workers.

Martin O’Halloran, chief executive with the HSA, said the campaign would highlight the dangers involved and the importance of properly managing safety and health before leaving port and while at sea.

“There’s no doubt that fishing is a dangerous job and fishermen often work under very dangerous and extreme conditions where the smallest oversight can lead to disaster,” he said.

“Under these circumstances it’s vital that skippers manage the risks and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their crew. Carrying out a risk assessment and preparing a safety statement for their boat will help skippers and owners identify the risks in advance and help to avoid the types of accidents we’ve seen all too often.

“Our inspectors regularly come across the same types of issues including injuries and ill health caused by slips and trips, entanglement, poor manual handling and general unsafe systems of work.

“We will continue to consult with fishermen and engage with industry stakeholders with a view to raising awareness.

“But it’s vital that skippers and fishermen manage the very serious risks they’re facing and work to ensure that tragedy doesn’t strike their boat.”

Mr O’Halloran said in a series of inspections carried out last November it was found that only 30% of fishermen inspected had a safety statement and only one in five had completed a risk assessment.

“We are concerned at the relatively low levels of compliance with the requirement to have a risk assessment and safety statement for fishing boats,” he said.

“Completing this process has been shown to be highly effective in managing risk and reducing accidents across other industry sectors and can be equally effective in the fishing sector. This is obviously in everyone’s interest, but most of all for the fishermen themselves.”

Daylight saving time linked to heart attacks,

A study finds


Summertime began when clocks went forward by an hour at 1am today LAST sATURDAY.

Switching over to daylight saving time, and losing one hour of sleep, raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 25 per cent, compared to other Mondays during the year, according to a new US study released today.

Switching over to daylight saving time, and losing one hour of sleep, raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 25 per cent, compared to other Mondays during the year, according to a new US study released today.

The study was released yesterday ahead of summertime beginning in Ireland this morning at 1am, when the clocks went forward by one hour.

The study found that heart attack risk fell 21 per cent later in the year, on the Tuesday after the clock was returned to standard time, and people got an extra hour’s sleep.

The not-so-subtle impact of moving the clock forward and backward was seen in a comparison of hospital admissions from a database of non-federal Michigan hospitals. It examined admissions before the start of daylight saving time and the Monday immediately after, for four consecutive years.

In general, heart attacks historically occur most often on Monday mornings, maybe due to the stress of starting a new work week and inherent changes in our sleep-wake cycle, said Dr Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver who led the study.

“With daylight saving time, all of this is compounded by one less hour of sleep,” said Dr Sandhu, who presented his findings at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology inWashington.

A link between lack of sleep and heart attacks has been seen in previous studies. But Dr Sandhu said experts still don’t have a clear understanding of why people are so sensitive to sleep-wake cycles.

“Our study suggests that sudden, even small changes in sleep could have detrimental effects,” he said.

Dr Sandhu examined about 42,000 hospital admissions in Michigan, and found that an average of 32 patients had heart attacks on any given Monday. But on the Monday immediately after springing the clock forward, there were an average of eight additional heart attacks, he said.

The overall number of heart attacks for the full week after daylight saving time didn’t change, just the number on that first Monday. The number then dropped off the other days of the week.

People who are already vulnerable to heart disease may be at greater risk right after sudden time changes, said Dr Sandhu, who added that hospital staffing should perhaps be increased on the Monday after clocks are set forward.

“If we can identify days when there may be surges in heart attacks, we can be ready to better care for our patients,” he said.

The clock typically moves ahead in the spring, so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less, and returns to standard time in the fall.

Daylight saving time was widely adopted during World War I to save energy, but some critics have questioned whether it really does so and whether it is still needed.

Researchers cited limitations to the study, noting it was restricted to one state and heart attacks that required artery-opening procedures, such as stents. The study therefore excluded patients who died prior to hospital admission or intervention.

Wet red sand residue on cars in Dublin following recent rainfall is sand from Sahara Desert 


Motorists all over Dublin woke up this morning to see a strange dust covering their cars. Pictures Declan Masterson Photography

A simple explanation has been given for the red-brown sandy residue left on cars across the east and south of the country following last night’s rainfall.

Motorists in parts of the country woke up to a strange dust covering their cars this morning.

The spattering of mud on windscreens and bonnets is dust from the Sahara desert, Met Eireannexplained.

Strong winds over North Africa last night brought sand from the desert to parts of Europe, including the south and east coasts of Ireland.

It is not uncommon but last night’s rainfall meant the sand fell as wet mud spots instead of a light dusting.

Don’t get the car sponges out just yet though as similar winds are to stay in place for the next few days, meaning more wet mud spots are likely to fall on your car or windows again.

Former Archbishop Williams warns of a climate catastrophe


Dr. Rowan Williams’ (pictured above left) plea to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels comes on the eve of the publication of the most authoritative study yet into the impact of climate change 

The former Archbishop of Canterbury argues that Western lifestyles bear the responsibility for causing climate change in world’s poorest regions

Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has attacked Western lifestyles for causing climate change that is “pushing the environment towards crisis”.

Writing in the Telegraph, Dr Williams says that the “appalling” floods and storms that devastated parts of Britain this winter were a demonstration of “what we can expect” in the future.

He also takes a sideswipe at climate change sceptics.

The floods in Britain and weather-related “catastrophes” in the poorest countries on Earth, he insists, are the clearest indications yet that predictions of “accelerated warming of the Earth” caused by “the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels … are coming true”.

His plea to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels comes on the eve of the publication of the most authoritative study yet into the impact of climate change.

On Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its latest study – running to thousands of pages – on the consequences of the predicted rise in global temperatures.

The report, according to the latest leaked draft, will claim the cost of combating the effects of a 4.5F (2.5C) rise in temperature by the end of the century will be £60 billion a year. It will warn that the impact of climate change will be felt most keenly in Africa, South America and Asia and predicts droughts, food shortages and a rise in diseases such as malaria.

Climate change sceptics argue that if the planet is warming up, it is not clear that it is because of the actions of man. They point out errors in previous IPCC reports and accuse the global warming industry of ratcheting up the risks of climate change, which have subsequently led to the cripplingly expensive introduction of green energy policies.

But Dr Williams, who quit as leader of the Anglican Church just over a year ago, writes: “We have heard for years the predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels will lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth. What is now happening indicates that these predictions are coming true; our actions have had consequences that are deeply threatening for many of the poorest communities in the world.

“Rich, industrialised countries, including our own, have unquestionably contributed most to atmospheric pollution. Both our present lifestyle and the industrial history of how we created such possibilities for ourselves have to bear the responsibility for pushing the environment in which we live towards crisis.”

Dr Williams, writing in his capacity as chairman of Christian Aid, said that the winter storms that battered Britain had brought climate change to the fore in this country and that the IPCC report publishedat a specially convened meeting in Yokohama in Japan tomorrow puts “our local problems into a deeply disturbing global context”.

The IPCC, he says, will be “pointing out that … we [the UK] have in fact got off relatively lightly in comparison with others”.

While the “chaos [of the flood] came as a shock to many”, other countries in the developing world such as Bangladesh and Kenya among others had suffered far worse catastrophes caused by climate change over many years.

Dr Williams goes on to attack global warming sceptics and climate change deniers. “There are of course some who doubt the role of human agency in creating and responding to climate change, and who argue that we should direct our efforts solely to adapting to changes that are inevitable, rather than modifying our behaviour,” says Dr Williams.

“That approach might be “all very well” in the UK where flood defences and other measures can be adopted relatively cheaply but in the most vulnerable, poorest countries worst affected by global warming that is not an option.”

Dr Williams’s intervention in the climate change debate comes as officials and researchers meeting in Japan finalise the wording of the IPCC study. The report, effectively a collection of the scientific evidence gathered on climate change, will focus on the impacts of global warming. It is expected to say that Africa will be affected by longer droughts that threaten livestock and crop yields.

The IPCC expects to see worsening health as a result with an increase in malnutrition, malaria and other diseases.

Rising temperatures will also affect food production and security in parts of Asia with a fall in rice yields caused by a shorter growing period.

The IPCC report will say that northern parts of Asia will benefit from warmer temperatures, however, leading to increased production of wheat and other cereals. In South America, the IPCC will say that ice and glaciers in the Andes are “retreating at an alarming rate”, affecting water supplies while “unique ecosystems” are threatened both climate change and increasing industrialisation.

News Ireland daily BLOG Wednesday

Wednesday 18th December 2013

Three former bankers charged with €7.2bn fraud

  Peter Fitzpatrick was finance director at Irish Life and Permanent

Case relates to deposits between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent in 2008

Three former senior bank officials have appeared in court charged in connection with an alleged €7.2 billion fraud.

Former chief executive of Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P)Denis Casey and the bank’s former finance director Peter Fitzpatrick appeared today in the Dublin District Court along with the former head of treasury at Anglo Irish BankJohn Bowe.

The three men were charged with conspiracy to defraud the public under common law.

The charges relate to €7.2 billion in deposits between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent and Irish Life Assurance in 2008.

In addition, a separate charge was brought against Mr Bowe for false accounting in relation to these deposits in Anglo Irish bank under section 10 of the Theft and Fraud Act.

The three were arrested this morning between 9.25am and 9.45am before being charged at Bridewell Garda station.

After hearing evidence from Detective Inspector Gerry Walsh of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, Judge Patricia McMahon remanded the three men on bail until March 12th next when a book of evidence will be required to be produced by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In each case, the bail conditions included a €1,000 cash bond and a €10,000 independent surety.

Each of the men will also be required to sign on at a Garda station once a week for the period of their bail.

They have also been required to give the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation 48 hours notice of their intention to travel outside the jurisdiction.

In the case of Mr Fitzpatrick, an exception was granted for him to travel to Northern Ireland for family purposes.

Addicts don’t work ‘18 hours’ to fund charity says Victory Outreach


Victory Outreach defends itself after Prime Time report on fundraising method

An evangelical charity which provides residential places for drug addicts has defended its use of cold turkey to treat addicts as well as sending them out to fundraise for it.

RTÉ’s Prime Time last night reported that addicts attempting recovery at Victory Outreach were working “up to 18 hours a day, for no pay, simply to raise money for a charity organisation”.

The RTÉ report said the unregulated organisation did not give chemical assistance or professional counselling to residents, who were told to use prayer.

Victory Outreach began working in Ireland in 1997 and is part of a US-based organisation which operates “churches” in more than 20 countries. Victory Outreach Dublin operates five recovery homes, spokesman Stuart Murphy said.

Mr Murphy told The Irish Times yesterday that residents fundraised voluntarily and money raised was used to fund the organisation which received no State monies. The earliest a team started fundraising was 9.30am or 10am, he said.
Cold turkey
Asked about residents going “cold turkey” Mr Murphy said they were aware of this “when taken in” and there are “no locks on the doors”.

Mr Murphy said he himself had come through the programme 13 years ago and survived.

There were three basic parts to the programme: restoration of family, a positive work ethic and a relationship with Christ, he said.

He would like to see regulation of treatment organisations “the sooner the better” as they then would not have to “sell raffle tickets” and the staff “might get wages”, he said.

The Department of Health said addiction services which are funded by the HSE are required to meet “minimum standards ”.

Victory Outreach was “not funded by the HSE” and there was “currently no provision” in law for regulation of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction, it said.

Unlike many other services operating in Dublin, the organisation has no waiting list and will assist most addicts who contact it.
The Prime Time report pointed out there were an estimated 20,000 heroin addicts in the State but just one professionally supervised detox bed for every 400 addicts in Dublin. “This shortage has led addicts to engage with private and unregulated organisations,” RTÉ said in a statement ahead of the programme.

There was “definitely a gap in service provision that needs to be filled,” Tony Duffin, director of the Anna Liffey Drug Project (ALDP) told The Irish Times yesterday. It can be “difficult for people actively using drugs” to access residential treatment as many services require them to reach a level of stability beforehand. ALDP would like to open residential units where people can “refer themselves” based “solely on need” .

According to 2012 accounts registered with the company’s office, the charity, registered as Urban Outreach Limited, had an income of almost €280,000 and a deficit of €13,000. This is made up of donations of more than €168,000 and rental income of almost €111,000. Its main expenditure was rental income of €150,000.

Victory Outreach’s US organisation was subject to controversy last year after a Boston Globe investigation found a contractor was paying illegally low wages to workers from the church to renovate hotels .

Five cent vegetable price wars now very aggressive says Irish Minister Coveney


Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has said he cannot control the “very aggressive” vegetable price wars which are putting vegetable growers under increasing pressure.

Stores are offering extraordinary bargains like a 1kg bags of onions, potatoes, or carrots for as little as five cents. Brussels sprouts and parsnips are also being offered at the same rock bottom price.

Supermarket giants Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores are dropping prices to unprecedented lows in the bid to win savvy customers.

Mr Coveney said today that new legislation will be introduced to bind supermarkets to the terms of contracts they’ve signed with food producers.

He said he will introduce the mandatory code of conduct “within weeks, if not months” to protect producers from unfair treatment.

“We are seeing at the moment a very aggressive price war where supermarkets are using vegetables as a loss leader to get people into their stores.”

However, he admitted on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland today that “it’s not going to solve every problem”.

A “worrying situation” has developed in the battle of supermarkets to beat down prices, and “many producers who are reliant on just one retailer so that means they’re very exposed”.

He said the new legislation which will be introduced by the end of February will protect producers.

“It’ll protect primary producers to ensure the contracts they’ve signed are fully respected for the lifetime of the contracts.”

A new protein test made in Ireland can help doctors spot if you are having a heart attack


New tool could reduce time to diagnosis of a cardiac event – and is especially helpful in women.

A Diagnostic test developed and being manufactured in Longford could be an important weapon in the arsenal of doctors trying to assess if someone is having a heart attack.

The test – called the ARCHITECT Stat High Sensitive Troponin-I – is being used at the Mater public and private hospitals in Dublin at the moment and it is hoped that it will be rolled out at other cardiology units across the country.

It is able to measure very low levels of the protein known as cardiac troponin, which indicates someone is having a heart attack. However, previous tests through blood sample could only measure this protein when it reached a certain level, which could delay diagnosis by a few precious hours.

Dr Niall Mahon said that this test – developed by Abbott Longford – could “speed up” the diagnosis of serious heart attacks and help medics to intervene quicker. The speed factor is particularly helpful in diagnosing women who might be having a heart attack as they can show different symptoms from men and are generally under-diagnosed and under-treated for heart attacks.

He said: The high-sensitive assay (test) may help physicians to rule in and rule out acute myocardial injury… the sensitivity of this assay is unique in that it has potential for earlier diagnosis in women.

One in 10 people believe coffee causes cancer (but it does not)


Almost 10 per cent of British adults wrongly think coffee causes cancer, a new study has found.

Around one in 10 British adults mistakenly think coffee causes cancer, with 9 per cent of those polled believing that consuming the drink can lead to developing the disease.

“There is no scientific evidence that coffee causes any form of cancer but the latest analysis of research has shown that it can have a preventative effect against womb cancer and there are suggestions it may protect against liver cancer,” the charity said in a statement.

Six per cent say of those surveyed said that coffee can protect against the disease. One in 10 meanwhile, think caffeine can help with weight loss, despite, according to the WCRF, there being no scientific evidence for the assumption.

Furthermore, more than one in five were found to believe caffeine is the “most dangerous” substance in coffee, when the highest health risk associated with the drink is sugar and full-fat milk or cream that is added to it, the charity said.

Dr Rachel Thompson, head of research interpretation at the charity said: “New evidence from our Continuous Update Project (CUP) suggests drinking coffee may decrease the risk of womb cancer, but there are still too many unanswered questions – such as how many cups we should drink, or how regularly – for us to provide any advice on coffee drinking.”

“The CUP has found no consistent evidence that suggests coffee increases or decreases the risk of any other cancers but we are continually reviewing the evidence to see if this changes.”

Geologists find diamond-producing rocks in Antarctica

Geologists find diamond-producing rocks in Antarctica 

For the first time ever, geologists working in Antarctica have found a type of rock that’s known to bear diamonds — a discovery that could expose the polar continent to opportunistic prospectors.

Called kimberlite, it’s a volcanic rock named after the town of Kimberley in South Africa, where the discovery of an 83.5-carat (16.7 g) diamond in 1871 kick-started a diamond rush. These rocks appear in vertical structures called kimberlite pipes — the single most important source of mined diamonds today. The rocks were found around Mount Meredith in the Prince Charles Mountains.

The geologists who discovered the kimberlite samples didn’t find any diamonds, but they’re now wondering if the icy continent contains vast mineral riches.

Antarctica is currently off limits to mining. In 1991, 50 signatories signed the Antarctic Treaty, an environmental accord that’s set to expire in 2041. The treaty was put in place as a way to preserve the continent for scientific research and wildlife. The accord, which is only binding to the 50 nations who signed it (including the US and China), is expected to be extended when it expires.

“We do not know what the Treaty Parties’ views will be on mining after 2041 or what technologies might exist that could make extraction of Antarctic minerals economically viable,” said Kevin Hughes, of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Mr Riley said there was a fine line between geological mapping and prospecting with an eye to mining. Nations including Russia, Ukraine and China have been more active in surveying Antarctica in recent years.

Indeed, if there’s diamonds in them thar icy hills, it won’t be easy to extract. The geologists who conducted the study doubt that the find could be commercially viable, citing Antarctica’s remoteness, cold, and winter darkness. But where there’s a will — or profit — there’s a way.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 9th March 2013

Ireland’s alcohol consumption down 19% since 2001


Alcohol consumption in Ireland is down 19 per cent since 2001, new figures show. Analysis of figures from the Revenue Commissioners and the CSO show that Irish people are drinking 2.7 litres of alcohol less than they did 11 years ago.

Published by drinks industry body the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi), the figures show that the average Irish person drank 14.44 litres of alcohol in 2001. Consumption levels have continued to fall over the last decade and currently stand at 11.68 litres.

“Between 2007 and 2012, average per adult consumption declined by 12.5 per cent,” said author of the study and DCU business school lecturer Tony Foley.

Average per adult alcohol consumption declined again in 2012 compared to 2011. People drank 0.5 per cent less last year than the year before, or a drop from 11.74 litres per adult to 11.68 litres per adult, he said.

The figures were calculated from CSO Population and Migration Estimates for April 2012 and the Revenue Commissioners’ 2012 alcohol clearances data. The study methodology defines an adult as “15 years and older”.

Digi chairman and Diageo’s corporate relations director for Europe, Peter O’Brien, said the drop was due to the weak economy and changing consumer habits.

“Weakness in the domestic economy and the continued pressure on discretionary income are clearly having a negative effect on the drinks sector,” he said. “In addition there has been a substantial societal shift…increasingly people are dining out, choosing to enjoy alcohol as an accompaniment to food.”

Programmes like the drinks industry-sponsored drinkaware.ie were also promoting the more responsible use of alcohol, he said.

The Government’s National Substance Misuse Strategy published last year recommends a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport, an increase in excise duties and a minimum price per gramme of alcohol.

Ireland’s youth views its future in science and entrepreneurship


If you want to see how an economy is doing, you should look for key indicators. The most obvious are barometers like employment levels and consumer confidence. But yesterday’s statistics from the Central Applications Office offer another glimpse of where Ireland is heading economically and – more instructively – where it hopes to arrive in a few years.

The CAO figures – a snapshot of student preferences – provide us with a breakdown of third-level applications that were submitted by February 1.

And they tell an interesting story, with business, technology, science and agricultural courses in high demand from students who hope to enter third level this autumn.

Nationally, science has seen a further 4pc rise in applications when compared with 2012 and is up a staggering 70pc since 2008.

The remarkable swing back to business is particularly interesting too, as it is up 4pc.

It is the first sign of growth in this area since 2008, when the economy imploded.

Could we hope to believe that this marks a growing sense of entrepreneurship among school-leavers and, perhaps, their parents?

While CAO choices are primarily the responsibility of students themselves, most parents or guardians like to have an input. Perhaps it is their confidence – fragile though it may be – that is being reflected here?

It would appear that a corner has been turned in our economic recovery since Christmas and the next generation does not appear daunted by the challenges ahead.

That, in itself, is good news.

Heart attacks in middle aged women of Europe now rising


The number of middle-aged women having heart attacks is on the increase in Europe, experts have warned.

According to the European Cardiology Society (ECS), while there have been big improvements in the heart health of Europeans in recent years, many women still associate cardiovascular disease with men and do not consider themselves at risk.

However heart disease remains the biggest killer of women in every EU country, including Ireland.

Furthermore, while most heart attacks occur in women over the age of 70, recent European research showed an increase in risk among middle-aged women.

According to ECS spokesperson, Prof Angela Maas, many women ‘mistakenly believe that they are protected from heart disease by their oestrogen hormones’.

She noted that while most heart disease-related deaths are among smokers and factors such as genetics can play a role, there are other ways that women can increase their risk, such as by leading a sedentary lifestyle.

“Eighty percent of cardiovascular disease can be avoided. Women can prevent heart disease by maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout their entire lives, by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, avoiding stress, maintaining a normal weight and not smoking,” Prof Maas explained.

Women are also advised to have their cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure checked on a regular basis, particularly after the menopause when the risk of heart disease rises significantly in females.

They should also be aware of the signs of a heart attack, which can include pain in the chest, neck or left arm or sudden breathlessness.

Prof Maas noted that even though heart disease is the biggest killer of women, ‘there is a great lack of knowledge among cardiologists on the insights in gender differences in cardiovascular disease that have been passed over for the last 20 years’.

“In the development of new medical therapies, female patients are still underrepresented. As cardiology has reached many technical developments, we need to focus more on female patients,” she added.

The ECS made its comments to coincide with International Women’s Day (March 8).

Leo Varadkar announces Irish road repair’s programme


Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar yesterday announced a series of measures to tackle the “growing problem” of road maintenance and upkeep.

He has told local authorities they can use € 42 million in funds currently allocated to road improvements for emergency repairs to local and regional roads instead.

However, there would be no budget for new local or regional road construction in the next couple of years, he said.

“While this will be a disappointment to some areas, there is no point in building new roads if we cannot maintain the existing network,” he said.

A new fund of €2.7million will be allocated this year to drainage works in the worst-affected local and regional roads, Mr Varadkar said. Water “lying on roads” was a large cause of deterioration, he said.

There was a “real and growing problem” with local roads, particularly tertiary roads and regional roads in some rural counties, Mr Varadkar told RTÉ Radio.

Councillors had been urging his department to assist with funds for road conditions, he said. However, he called on local authorities to spend more of the funding they receive from road tax on maintenance.

“Each local authority is expected to use a portion of its own resources on road improvements, in addition to direct Government funding,”

Protesters picket outside the Revenue Centre over property tax


Dozens of protesters are picketing the Revenue Computer Centre in Dublin this afternoon as part of the campaign against the property tax.

The centre will process the 1.9 million forms which will be sent to householders from Monday.

The Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes also says it plans to hold a national demonstration in Dublin next month. 


Property tax letters to go out says Eamon Gilmore


The Revenue Commissioners will begin an information campaign next week as letters go out to some 1.6 million householders about the property tax to be introduced from July.

The letters will include an estimated value for the property and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Revenue campaign would inform householders about the steps involved in making a declaration.

It would also deal with how householders can deal with letters sent in error or in duplicate “because up to now or recently there hasn’t been a full data base of properties that are owned in the State”.

He said there would be a period of time where householders could contact the Revenue if they believed the estimate was wrong and make a declaration about the value of their property.

Mr Gilmore was responding to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald who had asked him to confirm that if householders did not comply with the property tax, it would be taken from bank accounts, social welfare payments, salaries or credit union accounts. “How on earth can you justify a situation where the Government through the Revenue Commissioners, will put their hands into the pockets of people who are struggling, will deduct this tax from a social welfare payment, a job seekers allowance or an old age pension?” she asked.

She said the tax “championed and proposed by Fianna Fáil” and now being implemented by Labour and Fine Gael, was a draconian piece of legislation which “takes no account of people’s ability to pay and will drive people into debt and some into poverty”.

Mr Gilmore said he was sure Sinn Féin, like every other party, would encourage people to be tax compliant. He said “the powers available to the Revenue Commissioners where a tax is not paid are well known and the question is whether you support those or not”.

Ms McDonald hit out at the “sniggers” from the Government benches as “smart alec rhetoric” and said the issue was not about being tax compliant. “There are a vast number of people who simply cannot afford this tax,” she said.

The Dublin Central TD told the Tánaiste: “Don’t try and lay this on the Revenue Commissioners. The legislation rushed through this House by Labour and Fine Gael will allow this family tax to be taken from social welfare payments, from peoples wages, from their bank accounts and from peoples credit union accounts.”

Mr Gilmore said this tax was a much smaller tax than the property tax Sinn Féin had “no difficulty with,” north of the Border and he said Sinn Féin’s “hypocrisy has no boundaries”.

He said it seemed to be fine for Ms McDonald to “lash any political charge”. However, t when one replies in kind “there seems to be a problem with that,” he added.

He reiterated the Revenue’s campaign to issue letters with a property value estimate and there would be a period of time where householders could engage with the Revenue if they disagreed with the estimate. He asked if Sinn Féin was supporting the campaign against the tax or if the party would encourage people to be tax compliant.

Stonehenge was World’s first product of first ‘team building exercise’


Stonehenge may have been the result of the world’s first team-building exercise which unified the people of ancient Britain, according to researchers.

The vast stone structure has long been the subject of the debate among historians, who have variously described it as a pagan temple, or an astronomical calendar or observatory.

Now experts claim the monument was built as part of an annual winter solstice ritual which resembled “Glastonbury festival and a motorway building scheme at the same time”.

Researchers from University College London said as many as 4,000 people may have gathered at the site each year, at a time when the entire population numbered only tens of thousands.

Tests on remains found at the site reveal that people came to the site from as far as the Scottish Highlands at the same time every year to feast, and built the monument together.

But analysis of bones, tools and ancient houses in a primitive workers’ village near the site suggests it was only occupied for about a decade, and that Stonehenge was built in a matter of years.

The evidence also indicates that the homes lay unoccupied for most of the year, meaning the site was unlikely to have been a place of worship.

It was more likely the product of a unification ritual with people travelling across the country to build it around the solstices, particularly in winter, and then dispersing.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson, who led the study, explained: “What we have discovered is it’s in the building the thing that’s important. It’s not that they’re coming to worship, they’re coming to construct it.

“It is not so much a temple, it is a monument and it seems the big theme is unification … Stonehenge gets visited at certain points, people build and then go away.

“It’s something that’s Glastonbury festival and a motorway building scheme at the same time. It’s not all fun, there’s work too.”

Dating tests on historic artefacts revealed that Stonehenge was built about 4,500 years ago, during a brief window when all societies across Britain had begun to share a common culture.

A few hundred years later the arrival of the “Beaker People” in Britain, who brought new material goods including metals and the wheel, ended the pan-British culture and could explain why the monument was abandoned, Prof Parker Pearson said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 27th February 2013

Irish economy recovery begins as employment figures grow


The unemployment rate remained at 14.1 per cent in February, unchanged from January.

Employment figures published today give the strongest indication in half a decade that economic recovery has begun.

For the first time since the recession started in 2008, the numbers at work in the economy have risen over a six month period.

In the final quarter of the year, 1.85 million people were in jobs, a rise of 6,500 on three months earlier, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Central Statistics Office.

Revisions to the third quarter data now show that growth was also recorded in that period. It is the first time since employment began to contract in 2008 that jobs growth has been recorded in two consecutive quarters.

This growth, combined with people leaving the jobs market, led to a decline in the numbers formally unemployed by more than 12,000 between the third and fourth quarters of last year.

The number of unemployed stood at 303,500 in the final three months of last year. That amounts to 14.2 per cent of the labour force.

The gradual decline in the unemployment rate has been on-going for a year. It peaked at 15 per cent at the beginning of 2012.

The momentum in the labour market in the second half of last year appears to have continued into 2013.

Separate figures on the jobless benefit claimant count, also published today by the CSO, show the numbers in receipt of benefits continued to fall in the first two months of the year.

In February, 428,000 people were receiving unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is more than 20,000 lower than the peak figures, reached eighteen months ago.

From these figures, the CSO estimates that the unemployment rate stood at 14.1 per cent in February.

CSO figures show that 87,000 people left Ireland in the 12 months to April 2012, including 46,500 Irish nationals.

The CSO household survey on the labour market found the biggest annual increases in employment were in agriculture, forestry and fishing, up 12.1 per cent or 9,7000. The information and communication sectors were up 7 per cent or 5,400.

Irish Government pledges new scheme to take place of mobility allowance and motorised transport grant


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil that over €10m, allocated for the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grants this year, will be ring-fenced for a new scheme that will be legally compliant.

Mr Kenny said that the Government had no choice but to close the grants to new applicants and that it would spend the next four months devising the new scheme.

The schemes will be closed to new applicants with immediate effect.

Those currently in receipt of the mobility allowance will continue to receive it for another four months.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil that 5,000 people would be affected by the move and described it as scandalous and reprehensible.

Earlier, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said the Government “agonised” over its decision to scrap schemes, but had no choice.

The minister said that they were illegal, and could have cost the Exchequer between €170m and €300m to extend eligibility to them in order to comply with the Equal Status Act.

Ms Lynch said she was aware of the hardship the decision would impose.

However, she said the Government could not afford to extend the scheme and could not continue to operate outside the law.

Ms Lynch said the money that funded the scheme has been ring-fenced.

She said that HSE is conducting a review into the transport needs of those in receipt of the payments, and that the “only reassurance” she could offer them is that those needs will be met into the future.

The minister also said that a “full Government approach” was being taken to examine how to introduce a universally accessible transport system.

Decision came as ‘bolt out of the blue’

Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has said the Government gave no indication it was going to scrap the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant scheme.

Ms O’Reilly said the decision came as a “bolt out of the blue”.

A few months ago, the Ombudsman had found that the schemes were being operated illegally by the Department of Health and the HSE.

Their operation contravened the Equal Status Act because they excluded applicants over 66 years and she had recommended that they be brought in line with the law.

After initially accepting her recommendation in April 2011, Ms O’Reilly said the department said last year that these changes would be too expensive.

However, she said that just three weeks ago Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch gave no indication that the schemes would be scrapped when they appeared before an Oireachtas committee.

Instead, Ms O’Reilly said they had announced that a review group would be set up to examine the schemes and bring them in line with the law.

The Ombudsman said she understands that the decision to scrap the scheme followed advice from the Attorney General.

In a statement last night, Ms O’Reilly said she hoped that the Government’s promised review of the transport needs of people with disabilities would proceed as speedily as possible.

She said it is entirely regrettable that the department’s failure to tackle these matters in a timely, coherent and rational manner has now imposed hardship on more than 5,000 people with disabilities, who will find their transport needs compromised when the schemes are discontinued.

Disability Federation CEO ‘appalled’ by decision

Disability Federation of Ireland CEO John Dolan said he is “appalled” at the decision to discontinue the schemes.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Dolan said that news of the cut had come “out of the blue”, and compared it to the consultation process that preceded the new agreement on the public service agreement.

“We have here, no consultation, no engagement, out of the blue comes a statement that says people who are living on less than €200 a week, €10,000 a year, with an extra at the max of this scheme, an extra €2,500, will have that taken away, that’s a 20%, an up to 20% cut,” Mr Dolan said.

“This strikes right at the heart of people who are already, like everyone else, struggling to make ends meet.”

Mr Dolan said that despite a three-year review of the Department of Health’s Disability Services Programme, the department choose not to review these travel allowances, even though it was aware of the Ombudsman’s concerns that their terms were too narrow.

He was critical of what he called the department’s “Bart Simpson approach” where he said it seeks to blame others for the decisions it makes, which have a negative impact on those with disabilities.

“This department is a sick bureaucratic monster, if you go back to last August it blamed the Troika for taking €10m out of PA (personal assistant) services for people with disabilities, yesterday and today it’s blaming the equality legislation and the Ombudsman.

“There is a major issue for a Government that says it’s beyond Kathleen Lynch and it’s beyond the Department of Health.

“There’s an issue here for the Government to get to grips with a department that seems to be coming up with a Bart Simpson approach to everything, it’s always someone else’s fault that we have to screw people with disabilities to the floor.”

Disability rights campaigner Suzy Byrne described the decision to end the schemes as a “disgrace”.

She said the decision will hit those on waiting lists for the allowances very hard.

Up to 4,700 people receive a mobility allowance and 300 receive a motorised transport grant.

China is Ireland’s next major key export destination 


China is expected to become the fourth biggest export destination for Ireland by 2030, experts have predicted.

HSBC’s global trade forecasts have identified the UK, the USA and German as the top three destinations.

But it said that the main growth areas for its exports lie in emerging Asia.

“This is evidenced by forecasted growth in exports to China of 11pc per annum in the period 2016 to 2030,” HSBC said.

“Alongside China, the forecasts also show India and Vietnam as the fastest-growing export markets to 2030, with Malaysia and Indonesia also becoming increasingly important.”

Ireland’s overall export performance is expected to be relatively favourable compared to its Western European peers.

Exports will be driven by chemicals, pharmaceuticals, scientific apparatus, and IT equipment.

Monroe’s of Galway is Ireland’s music Venue of Year

  Robert Monroe (of Monroe's, Galway), winner IMRO Live Music Venu

Galway music venue Monroe’s has been named the IMRO Live Music Venue of the Year.

The winners in the Regional Categories were: The Olympia (Dublin); The Set Theatre, Kilkenny (Rest of Leinster); Glór Irish Music Centre, Ennis, Co Clare (Munster); McGrory’s, Culdaff, Co Donegal (Ulster) and Róisín Dubh, Galway (Connacht).

Electric Picnic was named IMRO Festival of the Year and @ The Marquee Cork was IMRO Best Small Festival.

The overall winner of the Hot Press Live Music Venue of the Year was The O2, as voted for by readers, with special commendations for the Set Theatre in Kilkenny and the Cork Opera House.

Victor Finn, CEO of the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO), said: “An extensive and vibrant venue network is the lifeblood of any strong live music sector. These awards acknowledge and applaud those venues and festivals throughout Ireland that excel in creating a memorable and exhilarating environment for music fans and performers alike.

“We would like to congratulate all of the winning and nominated venues and festivals and pay tribute to the contribution that they make to local communities from a cultural and economic perspective.”

Fish oil can protect people against skin cancer,  a new study claims


Taking a regular dose of fish oil rich in omega-3 could help protect against skin cancer, a new study has claimed.

The University of Manchester researchers carried out the first clinical trial to examine the impact of the fish oil on the skin immunity of volunteers.

The study found that taking a regular dose of fish oil boosted skin immunity to sunlight. Specifically, it also reduced sunlight-induced suppression of the immune system, known as immunosuppression, which affects the body’s ability to fight skin cancer and infection.

Led by Professor Lesley Rhodes, Professor of Experimental Dermatology from the Photobiology Unit Dermatology Centre at the University, researchers analysed the effect of taking omega-3 on 79 healthy volunteers.

“There has been research in this area carried out on mice in the past but this is the first time that there has been a clinical trial directly in people,” Rhodes said.

“This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer,” she said.

“Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual’s lifetime,” she said in a statement.

Patients who volunteered for the trial took a 4g dose of omega-3, which is about one and a half portions of oily fish, daily and were then exposed to the equivalent of either 8, 15 or 30 minutes of summer midday sun in Manchester using a special light machine.

Other patients took a placebo, before being exposed to the light machine. Immunosuppression was 50 per cent lower in people who took the supplement and were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sun compared with people who did not take the supplement.

The study showed little influence on those in the 30 minute group.

Rhodes, who also works at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, stressed that the omega-3 was not a substitute for sunscreen and physical protection, and that omega-3 should be regarded as an additional small measure to help protect skin from sun damage.

Rhodes’ team is now continuing their research with further omega-3 studies being carried out on healthy volunteers at Salford Royal.

Can Olive Oil and Nuts Prevent Heart Attacks?


A new study, just published online in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, was able to prove that diet — a tasty and rather easy to keep one, at that — was able to reduce stroke and heart disease by 30 percent.

The study, led by Dr. Ramón Estruch from Barcelona, Spain, involved 7,447 people ages 55 to 80, all at higher risk for heart disease due to diabetes or at least three risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, elevated levels of bad cholesterol, or a family history of early heart disease.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  • Mediterranean diet supplemented with approximately four cups a week of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Mediterranean diet supplemented with an additional ounce daily of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds
  • Control group that was counseled to eat a low-fat diet that did not include olive oil or nuts. This group received small nonfood gifts.

Both Mediterranean diet groups were encouraged to consume olive oil, nuts, fresh fruits and veggies (at least five a day), legumes, white meat and wine in moderation with meals, and discouraged from soft drinks, commercial bakery goods such as pastries and sweets, and red meat.Sofrito (a sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs, slowly simmered with olive oil) was also recommended — at least two servings a week.

The control group was advised to eat low-fat dairy, fruits and veggies (at least five a day), lean fish and seafood, and discouraged from vegetable oils (including olive oil), commercial bakery goods, nuts, fried foods, red and processed fatty meat and fatty fish.

To be fair, the study doesn’t really compare the Mediterranean diet to a low-fat one, because the control group didn’t really adhere to a low-fat diet — they must have found it hard. So the comparison is really between a Mediterranean diet and a “whatever goes” diet.

Although people in all three groups had similar diets before the study started, compliance with the Mediterranean diet was good, and was verified not just by participants’ report, but also by measuring urinary hydroxytyrosol, a marker of olive oil intake, and blood alpha-linolenic acid, a marker of walnut consumption.

The participants were followed for the occurrence of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease. After an average followup of almost five years, 288 such events happened. Both Mediterranean diet groups experienced 30 percent less such events compared with the control group.

Quite encouraging! Especially since neither group was given a low-calorie diet or advised to lose weight — which could of course reduce heart disease and stroke risk, but isn’t easy to do. As a matter of fact, the Mediterranean diet with EVOO group was encouraged to eat four tablespoons of the oil each day, which is 450 calories in EVOO alone! The Mediterranean diet with nuts group was supplied with about 200 calories a day in walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.

What’s special about this study?

The Mediterranean diet has shown its protective benefits against several diseases in many studies. A meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition combined the findings of many prospective studies, pooling more than 2 million people, and showed that greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet — in line with pretty minor lifestyle changes, like eating a good amount of fruits and some nuts — was associated with 8 percent reduction in death, 10 percent reduction in cardiovascular illness and cardiac death, 6 percent reduction in cancer
and 13 percent reduction in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and to offer some protection from stroke and mild cognitive losses.

This study adds to previous evidence, and stands out due to its scientific rigor — it is a large, randomized controlled clinical trial, in which people were allocated by chance alone to eat in a certain way, were followed for a long time, and were compared to a control group. Its results were also so conclusive that the trial was stopped early in order to report the results and allow the control group to enjoy the benefits of the Mediterranean treatment.

What’s the health-promoting ingredient in the Mediterranean diet?

So what should it be? Should we dip bread in olive oil twice a day or snack on almonds?

Let’s remember that this study tested the effects of a Mediterranean diet on heart disease and stroke. As much as we’d like to learn a magic trick from its findings, we cannot conclude that avoiding commercially baked goods, avoiding soda, eating sofrito, replacing red meat with fish, or nibbling walnuts saves lives. The people in the study changed many eating habits during the study period.

The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern, a total plan, and should adopted as one. We don’t know which part of the package confers the most benefit, all we know is that the pattern works as a whole; all parts of it are
probably beneficial, and it very well might be that they work in combination with each other. The Mediterranean lifestyle — allowing for leisurely food enjoyment and social interaction — might be just as important.

I think the Mediterranean diet would be worth adopting for the sheer pleasure of it, and the health benefits are just another great reason to go Mediterranean.

But I’d stop short of the at-least-four-tablespoons-EVOO-daily the participants in this study were advised to eat. Way too many calories — leaves too little to play with if you’re also aiming for an energy-balanced diet.